If we want to heal the world, we can begin by healing ourselves. It is easy and convenient to view one’s self as a victim. Many people carry resentment and anger because of a story about their heritage or some aspect of their past- or, perhaps, of a past they have adopted as their own, even though they have not experienced it themselves. The world is often an inhumane place, and yet, if we want to nurture a more humane, empathic society, our biggest power is to heal our self-view of any sense of victimization. Every single human being can, if they choose to, argue as to why they have had it harder then the next person, why others just don’t or can’t understand, why they are in some way disadvantaged or injured by the actions of others. So we have billions of human beings going through life with a belief that they are repressed. And in many, many cases they ARE repressed.
And yet, even in the face of repression, we witness heroines and heroes. Those who focus their attention on the opportunities at hand rather than what might have been. Those who rise to the challenges of their lives even as what seems to be all odds stack up against them. Those who do more with less, who give more with less, and most importantly, who never lose sight of the inherent blessings bestowed upon them, for there is not a living human being who is not blessed in some unique and essential way by Life, God, or whatever you would name the Source of our existence.
We live in a time in which age old issues are being addressed, debated and reinterpreted. From gender and sex to ethnic heritage to body image to agriculture and land use to indigenous rights to the very nature of trade, commerce and the regulation of such- including the commerce of the DNA of plants, animals and humans. On some fronts, humanity is closer than it has ever been (and yet with a long path ahead to total equality worldwide) to securing equal treatment for all people; on other fronts, to the speculator, it would seem a great regression is in place. But such is not the case: laws alone, while able to drastically reshape human action, can do little to reshape human perception, and though laws have evolved in some societies, they have in many cases failed to coerce those subject to them to evolve along with them.
And so, beyond policy, which is essentially edict- what can be done to bring about a more equitable world for human beings? To order someone to act or refrain from action is entirely a different thing than to convince that person of the reason why they should act or refrain from action. It is one thing to command; it is another to enlighten. For example: did outlawing racial discrimination in America in 1964 actually put an end to racism? We all know the answer to that question.
What we are witnessing in contemporary society is not surprising: the brutality targeting certain ethnicities, the judicial system targeting certain ethnicities, the perpetuation of race-based assumptions. For the non-thinker, the lazy mind, it is all too convenient to regurgitate the verbal – and physical – violence that circulates in a society riddled with hatred and resentment. The policies help, but cannot remove generations of engrained beliefs and myths reinforcing a clash of differences. The machine of inequity chugs onward.
What power does the individual have?
If I want to put an end to racism, for example, what can I do? Can I control the actions and perception of others? No, I cannot. But I can control my own mind. I can look critically at my own biases, my own assumptions, my engrained responses. Not only as a potential aggressor, but as a potential defender. When I feel like I am being victimized for my ethnicity, or as is sometimes the case living in Hawai’i, my lack of ethnicity- I can be mindful and conscious about my response. I can refrain from amplifying that energy. I can stop the cycle in me, by not taking it personal, by holding myself and those around me in a higher light, not rooted in that which sets me apart, but rather in our shared attributes as fellow human beings. I can tune into the inherent similarities that we share: our shared needs and our shared challenges. Our shared dreams. Our shared affections.
At the root of racism and other forms of prejudice is this thing called pain. Pain, and convenience: pain is like electricity, it always seeks the simplest, most available and direct path; the convenience shows up through generations of racial slurs, dogmas and mythologies that carve trenches into our minds from a young age, essentially creating high-trafficked pathways for hate to move our own pain from within to without. The mind seeks an easy target: what easier than to target a different skin color? We mimic, we hurt, we transfer.
Pain determines so much of how we respond to others in any given situation. If we are dealing with pain – with the exception of the most disciplined person – our response will be influenced by it to some degree. We will tend to – often unknowingly – transfer that pain to whomever is nearest and most accessible as a potential recipient. Pain has the amazing ability to outlive us. It finds a way to travel along bloodlines. It can, theoretically, be immortal, conveying from generation to generation, until someone finally, adamantly, intentionally says ENOUGH. I want to heal. I refuse to pass this into my children. It stops here, now.
To demean another based on their skin color, their perceived association with a certain ethnic group, is the lowest form of human interaction, the most base transference of one’s own misery, a weak attempt at lessening one’s own hurt. To categorize a human based on something so inconsequential – in actuality, evolution’s response to sunlight accessibility – is to demean one’s own self, to contribute mindlessly to the perpetuation of a centuries’ old game of “hot potato” with our own emotional pain.
The person who carries love in their heart cannot feed into racism, sexism, or any form of prejudice. It is not an option because such vitriol defies the foundation of a healthy heart’s perception: that we are all here to share in the abundance of this wonderful planet, together. Any stories that lift one color over another, that raise one race above another, are corruptions of the soul.
Virtually every ethnicity has a sob story. The French, Scots and Brits killed each other for centuries, and eventually subjugated the Irish too. The Aussies were shipped off to the middle of nowhere to rot in prisons and then created a society, and in turn nearly destroyed the Aboriginals. The Africans were enslaved. The Mongols pretty much killed and raped and pillaged everyone they came across, as did the Vikings. The Indians and Pakistanis, the North and South Koreans, all war from time to time. All eastern European peoples have war torn histories. The Jews were rounded up and killed en masse. The Russians have always had it bad. What can we say of the poor Palestinians? The Germans were economically sanctioned into hellish conditions, the Chinese were invaded by the Japanese as well as killed building transcontinental railroads in America, and in turn have oppressed not only their own people but Tibetans as well, the Japanese were war mongers until the Americans horribly bombed them with nuclear weapons, the Filipinos were raped and pillaged by the Spanish conquistadors, the Native Indian tribes were massacred by Colombus and the rest of the “discoverers” who came to America. Most Americans of today are descendants of peoples from many parts of Europe and Asia and Mexico and other places that came seeking a better quality of life. The Polynesians nearly died off from diseases brought by the Westerners and Asians. The Brazilians evolved from the Portuguese explorers who murdered Indigenous peoples as well as imported African slaves… eventually everyone started intermarrying and now Brazil is made up of many ethnic combinations as well. The Indonesians were victims of both Dutch conquerors as well as internal genocide and as we are witnessing today are committing the same atrocities against the people of Papua New Guinea. The Swiss, who haven’t “officially” engaged in war since the early 19th century (unless you count their nose rubbing with NATO), are likely the only large scale ethnic group who arguably don’t have THAT much to complain about. And don’t forget the countless civil wars in every part of the world for millennia.
So instead of basing our world-view on the injustices enacted against our associated ethnic category, we can choose to celebrate our unique heritages while forgiving the past and allowing for an inner ho’oponopono. I am not suggesting to disregard our cultural identity. Cultural identity and ethnic heritage are to be celebrated and honored.
I am simply pointing out the fact that a self-view founded on ethnicity will virtually in all cases come with huge emotional baggage, and that baggage will create more violence on this planet.
It is up to you how you respond to this idea. Perhaps you will lash out. Perhaps you will laugh and mock. Perhaps you will argue against. Or perhaps you will reflect.
Do I perpetuate violence with my own thoughts? How do I respond to violence against my self, and against what I consider to be my people? Do I employ the same weaponry as my aggressor? Do I participate on the same level as those whom I seek to change? Am I raising the vibration with my thoughts and actions, or am I suppressing it with my anger and resentment? Am I living what I want others to live?
I wrote this because each time I visit Facebook I see immense suffering. I witness violence from the mouths of people from other parts of the Earth to those in my own community- insensitivity, aggression, prejudice and a lack of dignity. Well guess what: everyone suffers. No one can avoid suffering completely. But… we can respond to it in a way that dissipates it rather than amplifying it.
If that was all too much to read and process, just remember this:
Every interaction is an opportunity to dignify others.
me ka ha’aha’a,